Ashes: A Swansong

Just four of the the laurels Ashes ends its festival run with.
Hi Guys,

   Next week is a bit of a milestone - the last public screening of Ashes at the end of its official festival run.

   Back when we started, Ashes seemed like the film that didn't want to get made. People even warned me against it. We had a very difficult pre-production - mostly in securing funding and a location - and the shoot was incredibly difficult for me, too. 

   But the lead actors, Sarah Lamesch and Adam Lannon, worked hard to form a strong bond, and because of that they both provided the film with some seriously moving performances. In fact, I would go so far as to say that their dedication and the characters they delivered gave the film its heart, and that's thing I'm most proud of with Ashes.

Sarah Lamesch and Adam Lannon -
the heart of Ashes - on set
   The art department - Art Director Gina Hames and MUA Rena Kalandrani - did a stellar job at creating all the different 'worlds' with little to no money, and Neil Oseman - who has since become one of my regular cinematographers - was amazing as always. 

   It's the first time I'd used Ian Cudmore on a film score, and he did such an incredible (albeit haunting) job with the music, that I made him an official member of Triskelle Pictures pretty much straight away. Ashes was also the first time I'd used special FX on a film (in this case supplied by Scott Nolan and John Butler), and the result was striking and exhilarating for me.

   We started to high promise. The finished film was accepted into Cannes Short Film Corner the moment it was finished, prompting local BBC Radio and Television to interview me. While at Cannes, the look of the film (even when showing it to people on my then-tiny Blackberry screen) was praised, and it was offered two distribution deals, which I didn't accept, as I wanted to play the 'festival game' for a while to come.

   At the cast and crew premiere, we had some special guests. Executives from War on Rape accompanied our key supporters, Wan2Talk, and praised the film for its accurate portrayal of sexual abuse in relationships. 

   Esteemed casting director Amy Hubbard (whose name appears in credits from The Selfish Giant all the way to the Hobbit franchise) also attended, due to a well-timed invite from Adam Lannon. It was such an honour to have her there.

The cast and crew premiere of Ashes. Photo credit: Lawrence de Gruchy
  We also got a string of great press online (due to the fact that I'd just hired my fantastic marketing team, Laura Cann and Charlotte Ashton), with high words of praise in articles from Clothes on Film, Unsung Films, Gorilla Film Magazine, Awesome Magazine, Hatch'd Magazine and White Coffee Magazine, plus a small article about the cast and crew premiere in Derby Evening Telegraph. All in all, it seemed like Ashes was destined for success.

   But the festival game is a difficult one to play, as filmmaker Brett Chapman recently commented. I did everything to the book; I made a few press kits, and submitted to all the 'A List' festivals first. I was never expecting them to accept us, so I wasn't too disappointed when I received rejections from them.

   Then I moved on to the fairly prestigious festivals, then to the moderate ones, then to the smaller ones... and I had a near 100% rejection result. I submitted to at least 50 festivals, and spent £100s on entry and postal fees, to no avail. I was lucky that Derby Film Festival screened Ashes in May 2014, but we hadn't had any acceptances before that since Cannes in May 2013, and we didn't have any more in 2014.

   I started to doubt the film. I never doubted the performances of the cast, or the talents of the crew, but I doubted myself as a director. I felt as though my team had given everything for nothing, and that I had let them down. 

Introducing Ashes at Short Stack Film Night, January 2015.
   In my shame, I stopped pushing Ashes as much towards the end of its festival run, fearing rejection and criticism again. And what good is a film when even its director won't support it? 

    But, with four months left of its two-year festival life, I gave it one last push at local festivals and film nights - more for my cast, crew and sponsors than for myself. And I'm happy to say it went out with a small bang, screening at Beeston Film Festival and Short Stack Film Night in January, and 5Lamps Films and 20/20 East Midlands Showcase in March - with the upcoming Festigious International Film Festival in November. I'm still waiting to hear from a couple of other festivals.

   And so, to celebrate all of the film's success in spite of its difficulties, to showcase its handful of screenings and glowing reviews, to praise the efforts and talents of everyone involved, to once again reward the people who donated to the film, and most of all to say goodbye to this chapter of my life, I've released this new cut of the Trailer. I hope you'll all enjoy it and share it around wherever you see fit:

   It's time for Ashes to reach the last leg of its journey: online publication. Although I'm yet to decide where to host it, the plan will be to put it online at a price of £3 per rental/stream - partly to help pay off the last of the loan I took out to fund the production, but mostly to help the victims of sexual abuse; for this reason, I will be giving at least £1 from each sale to Wan2Talk, or other suitable charities in the event of their closure.

  There may be independent screenings of Ashes in the future. I'll certainly keep my eye out for them. I've learnt that there will be parts of the film, and the experience, that I'll always love, even as I move on from it. 

  I've worked with many members of the crew since then (and hopefully will again in the future), and I'd happily work with Sarah and Adam any time. I can't recommend their talents and dedication enough.

  Soon it will be time for Night Owls to enter its festival journey, and the 'love affair' of film making begins again. I wonder what kind of adventure this one will turn out to be!




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